For decades, a real problem area facing patent professionals has been the inefficiency of searching and analyzing patents for purposes of infringement. Sure, there are many ways to search and retrieve information for prior art or validity purposes based on patent disclosure, from basic keyword searching to advanced semantics-based algorithms, but these methods routinely fall short when the task is to determine a set of patents that might be infringed by a particular product. In other words, conventional searching doesn’t work when the focus is on claim scope, not disclosure.
This is because it is impossible for patent searchers to conceive of every possible manner of describing a particular system. Patents that use different terminology from that used in the search and patents that are broader in concept (but still relevant) are often missed using conventional search methods. Even when highly relevant references are retrieved, it still takes considerable time for an analyst to work through the “noise” of claims that can easily be dismissed because the target product clearly lacks at least one claim element.
ClearstoneIP’s mission is to provide a platform for effectively memorializing and interacting with patent claim analysis. It is the first tool to reliably capture the key information necessary to conduct rigorous, reliable, and efficient infringement-based analyses.
Here is a short list of five of the most powerful benefits of memorializing patent claim analysis:
1. Fast and Efficient Infringement Analysis
The most effective way to memorialize claim analysis is to create a hierarchical index of technical elements that represent features recited in claims. With this index, patents that claim similar features can be grouped together according to their technical elements. To conduct an infringement analysis, such as identifying potentially infringing products, performing freedom-to-operate, or other portfolio management activities, you can simply navigate the index of elements and select the ones that are not present in the target product. The software will automatically eliminate patents that require the selected elements for infringement. You are left with a resulting set that includes highly relevant patents that couldn’t be eliminated.
The process of selecting elements from the index that are not embodied by the target product is fast (typically less than an hour even for patent sets including thousands of patents) and can be done without looking at a single patent. You will have confidence that the remaining set of patents will be highly relevant because it represents the references that could not be cleared based on conscious and deliberate decisions with respect to actual claim elements.
2. Enhanced Reliability and Accuracy
When conducting infringement analyses, we instinctively want to jump to the most obvious question: “which patents cover the target system?” This question leads us to seek out references that disclose or claim aspects that are similar to the target system, which results in mountains of patent documents. This approach is fine for prior art or invalidity searches, but for infringement analysis it is fraught with unneeded expense of effort while failing to retrieve the unknowably relevant documents (e.g., patents with claims that are broad, use different terminology, or otherwise describe subject matter differently from that which the searcher/analyst can anticipate). The effort is overly burdensome because, while this mountain of documents may be highly relevant from a technological similarity perspective, the large majority of results will include at least one claim element that is clearly not present in the target system.
ClearstoneIP posits a complete reframing of infringement analysis. Before getting to the ultimate question above, the first and most relevant question should be: Which patents can I eliminate from consideration because they clearly claim something that is not in the target product?
In other words, the focus should be on finding reasons to eliminate or clear a patent reference, not on trying to find the most similar references. This can be achieved effectively by using an index of technical claim elements that represent subject matter drawn directly from a memorialized claim analysis. This process is highly reliable and accurate because references are only eliminated based on a conscious and deliberate decision to do so. It automatically takes account of claims that are very broad and describe subject matter in different ways, and will yield these hard-to-find but highly relevant documents in the result sets.
3. Real-Time Product/Portfolio Monitoring
With an index of technical elements drawn directly from actual patent claims, you can save a record of selected elements in connection with a particular product. This saved record can be applied to previously-analyzed patent sets as well as patents added after the Product Record is created. This means that patents that issued after the product record was created can be instantly associated with the previously analyzed product.
Example: In January 2015, you analyze a product against a memorialized claim element index and save the record. In June 2015, you wish to update the analysis. Let’s assume 150 new patents have issued between January and June in the relevant field of art and have been annotated. As soon as you open up the previously-saved product record, the system will inform you which of the 150 new patents are “cleared” and which are relevant to the product, without having to do any additional work.
4. Tracking Product Modifications
Another powerful use of the Product Records just described is the ability to quickly locate patents that become of issue due to product or system modifications.
With conventional methods, changes to products require a near-complete reworking of an infringement analysis because added features may not have been considered the first time around, or patents that were previously considered are now moot because certain considered features have since been removed. In each case, there is no easy way to adapt the previous work product without starting the search from the ground up again.
Starting with a Product Record that represents features of an originally-designed product in relation to an index of technical elements, a user can easily make the necessary adjustments so that the Product Record represents the modified product. Based on the differences between the resulting patent sets of the original Product Record and the modified Product Record, the Clearstone Elements software will immediately inform the user which patents have become of issue due solely to the product modifications.
5. Databases Don’t Have Sick Days
All too often, the depth and wealth of institutional patent knowledge resides in a secure location accessible by only one individual: in the mind of the resident technical expert. If that person is not available or eventually decides to leave the company, he or she takes the information with them, resulting in a knowledge vacuum.
Memorializing claim analysis with Clearstone Elements is a great way to preserve institutional knowledge and make it accessible by anyone. Analyses and records can easily be shared between and acted upon by many users within the organization.